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John Murray


(John McMurray)

1737 - 1793

Publisher. Born in Edinburgh, the son of a lawyer, Murray founded a publishing dynasty which, under his son, became one of the most important and influential in Britain with authors such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, Sir Walter Scott, together with explorer David Livingstone, self-help proponent Samuel Smiles and geologist Sir Charles Lyell. Murray (or McMurray as he was at that stage) briefly attended the University of Edinburgh and entered the Royal Marines in 1753. He retired as a lieutenant and bought a book business in London's Fleet Street in 1768. Given the anti-Scottish feeling in London at the time, not long after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, he dropped the 'Scottish prefix' referring to himself as simply John Murray.

Murray himself published around a thousand titles and was one of the original proprietors of the Morning Chronicle newspaper, founded in London in 1769. He also created the monthly English Review (1783-96). Among his publications were many important medical and scientific titles, including the quarterly journal Medical Commentaries and Johann Kaspar Lavater's Essays on Physiognomy. He also produced Langhorne's Plutarch's Lives, Mitford's Greece, and the first part of Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature.

Murray died in London and lies buried at St. Dunstan-in-the-West opposite his shop. The business was eventually sold in 2002 by the seventh John Murray to the much larger Hodder Headline Publishing Group, but the imprint continues to be used. The company's remarkable archive was sold to the National Library of Scotland for 31 million. This includes the original manuscript of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.


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